How we built a service to help technical interns during the pandemic

Published on
May 10th, 2021
And how we acquired our biggest customer yet, Mozilla, through our launch.
The Covid pandemic squashed a lot of plans when the world shut down. Aspiring software developers were among those who had their internships canceled. That’s when my cofounders and I had the idea to start Techintern.io.

Spotting new problems and acting fast

I was doing some tech consulting with my cofounders, Qile Wang and Daniel Lee, when we noticed that a lot of startups were growing quickly, raising a lot of funding, and needed to hire tech talent quickly. Around the same time, many large tech companies had paused their internship programs during the pandemic, so a lot of very strong student developers were losing their internships. Our inspiration for Techintern.io was an almost natural extension of wanting to help our peers, and also gave us a way to benefit in making that connection.

We were also inspired by the University of Waterloo's co-op program. As a University of Waterloo alum, I was particularly familiar with the program. It’s structured so that students alternate study and work periods every four months. This means that by the time they graduate, after the 5-year program is done, students have 2 years or more of combined work experience.

This structure has helped Waterloo become an established brand name in Silicon Valley, with a focus on technical talent. When we saw what was happening with canceled internships, it gave us the idea to bring regular internship opportunities to talented students from all backgrounds.

We wanted to make it easier for students from across North America to find technical internships. This means that they can take time off school or work during their summer on contributing to real products and gain practical work experience.

Building Techintern.io

Once I realized that fast-growing tech companies and students losing their internships were actually a perfect match, my cofounders and I got to work.
At first, we started to connect companies we were already talking to with students individually. As we got more demand, we decided to formalize the process and start building a web application. As we iterated, we simplified the application process and helped students connect with many more companies that are actively hiring.
At Techintern.io, students opt into companies in hiring rounds about once a month. The companies get all their details together so that they can reach out, batch interview, and hire within weeks. Many of the students are product-minded and entrepreneurial and will eventually want to work as an early engineer or founder. Our goal is to direct them to meaningful problems that also have clear market demand.

Many larger companies are committed to having a diverse hiring pipeline. As part of those efforts, we also connected with diversity-focused technology clubs such as Women in Computer Science, National Society of Black Engineers, and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at colleges across North America. This demonstration of our commitment to equitable hiring practices really impressed them, and has allowed us to move forward in our partnerships.

Solutions for a new landscape

In many ways, TechIntern.io is helping to solve a problem that always existed, and has been accentuated by the pandemic.
On the company side, technical hiring has always been very competitive. Companies have been challenged to find eager and experienced talent from across North America. On the student side, finding companies that are hiring and applying to them individually has always been a tedious task.

The pandemic has not only made remote work more common, it has accelerated the digital transformation of different industries. We are seeing more startups hire technical interns across the board. Traditional companies in industries such as real estate, consumer goods, and manufacturing are leveraging interns more now as a way to improve their technical capabilities. That's why our mission is to improve access to opportunities in the tech space for students everywhere.

Our Product Hunt Launch

We decided to launch on Product Hunt in preparation for our last hiring round for summer interns. During our launch day, we received around 1,600 daily unique company users compared to a running average of around 100.

It was important to us to have an explicit goal for our launch. Our primary goal was connecting with more companies that were interested in hiring technical interns. We did a lot of prep for our launch including a website redesign beforehand to optimize our site for company sign-ups, and setting up social media posts and templates for friends.

All of our efforts resulted in a 30% increase in company sign up including one of our larger new customers, Mozilla. Although we weren’t pursuing student signups, we immediately, and over the following weeks, saw an increase. The caliber of students was impressive with some resumes including internship experience at Google’s Data Loss Prevention team, Amazon’s AWS team, and more.

Changing minds about where expertise comes from

Our biggest challenge is the most fun to overcome, which is finding unique ways to connect with more companies and convincing them of how they can benefit from a tech intern. One of our most common objections is the idea that a tech intern would require a lot of mentorship and be a drain on resources. That usually goes away once companies see that most of our students already have past work experience or have worked on several personal projects on their own time. We recently had one student who was hired for Quality Assurance but who ended up building an open-source tool. We enjoy helping many companies identify areas where a technical intern would be a good fit and a good overall contributor to the business.

The next big steps for Techintern.io are continuing to work with more startups, but also break into larger companies and more traditional industries. There is a growing trend of traditional companies hiring execs from big tech companies to help digitize their industries. We’re interested in helping these companies hire strong technical talent and exposing our students to opportunities in more industries.

For students, we’re looking forward to continuing our efforts on improving access to technical opportunities everywhere. Maybe it will always an uphill battle convincing companies that talent lives everywhere, rather than at specific brand names. Nonetheless, we’re glad to be a part of this movement towards a more equitable tech sector, one intern at a time. Our biggest reward is seeing our tech interns succeed and exceed expectations at the companies they work at. We hope to bring regular internship opportunities to talented students from all backgrounds.
Published on
May 10th, 2021
Comments (1)
I applaud your efforts to make finding technical internships easier for students across North America. The summer is a time to gain experience by contributing to real products and taking time off school. Some students visit https://edubirdie.org/edubirdie-review-the-most-honest-and-reliable/ website to read authentic reviews about online writers to get their assignments done on time.